St Francis ‘underprepared for fire’

HUGE LOSSES: A blaze that raged through St Francis Bay in 2012 has resulted in a court battle Picture: JACK WHITE
HUGE LOSSES: A blaze that raged through St Francis Bay in 2012 has resulted in a court battle
Picture: JACK WHITE

Concerns raised in report three years before inferno

Three years before a blaze that levelled more than 70 houses in St Francis Bay, the district municipality requested a report on its fire readiness – and it showed that the small coastal town was significantly underprepared.

Now the Sarah Baartman District Municipality and the Kouga Local Municipality are stuck in a legal battle in which St Francis Bay residents, and their insurance providers, are claiming millions of rands in damage to property due to a fire in 2012 that destroyed dozens of luxury homes.

According to the court application, the residents believe the municipality shirked its duty by not having sufficient fire safety measures in place.

Rural Metro, a company that specialises in fire safety assessments and firefighter training, compiled the 2009 report for the municipality.

Yesterday, in the Port Elizabeth High Court, the company’s manager in charge of communications and fire safety, Des Mullen, called St Francis Bay “a firefighter’s nightmare”.

In his report, Mullen cited the South African Bureau of Standards’ SANS 10090 – which outlines public fire safety standards – and said an area like St Francis Bay needed to employ about 32 permanent firefighters, with at least two fully equipped fire-fighting vehicles, instead of the four volunteer firemen there in 2009.

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